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Beyond fans: The relational labor and communication practices of creators on Patreon

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Abstract

The digital patronage model provides content creators the opportunity to receive sustained financial support directly from their fans. Patreon is a popular digital patronage platform that represents a prime site for the study of creators’ relational labor with their fans. Through in-depth interviews with 21 Patreon creators, this study investigated different types of creator–patron relationships and the perceived benefits and challenges of carrying out relational labor. We found that creators construct a variety of relationships with patrons, ranging from purely transactional to intimately familial. Creators benefit from relational labor in that it encourages patrons to treat the creator as a person rather than a product, resulting in both financial and emotional support. However, creators face difficulties in maintaining appropriate relational boundaries with patrons, some of whom control a substantial part of a creator’s income.

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... Ahora bien, la misma autora afirma que el trabajo relacional en el contexto digital es único, puesto que los creadores digitales son tratados y percibidos más como amigos que como celebridades (Baym, 2018). En relación con esta distinción, Bonifacio et al. (2021) han identificado que el trabajo relacional en el contexto digital implica la combinación de múltiples formas de comunicación: desde la comunicación masiva -mass communicación-a la comunicación a un nivel grupal (como sucede con la moderación en comunidades digitales), así como a la interacción diádica, que supone una comunicación personalizada. A esto hay que sumar, añaden los autores, que estas formas de comunicación deben extenderse y sostenerse a través de varias plataformas digitales. ...
... En relación con lo anterior, Guarriello (2019) sostiene que las prácticas digitales del trabajo relacional se construyen a través de modos de trabajo neoliberal, puesto que requieren ser atento, agradecido, amistoso y transparente con el objetivo de obtener diferentes formas de apoyo económico y emocional. En consecuencia, aunque las relaciones laborales digitales pueden llevar a relaciones significativas entre el creador de contenido y sus seguidores, todas ellas son inherentemente utilitarias (Bonifacio et al., 2021), ya que en la mayoría de las ocasiones están determinadas por la dependencia financiera del creador de sus seguidores; es decir, para los creadores de contenido es prioritario establecer relaciones con sus seguidores para poder rentabilizar sus perfiles digitales. Esta motivación es más relevante que la posibilidad de desarrollar relaciones genuinas entre iguales. ...
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Theoretical discussions about the false dichotomy between interpersonal and mass communication scholarship continue while the emergence of powerful and flexible digital communication tools have made the old distinctions more permeable than ever. Individuals are using communication technologies in ways that expand the intersection of interpersonal communication and mass communication, calling for new frameworks. We introduce masspersonal communication as a concept at the intersections of mass and interpersonal communication, with examples from older and newer communication technologies and practices. The masspersonal communication model is introduced incorporating two dimensions—perceived message accessibility and message personalization—that link mass communication and interpersonal communication and redefine each independent of channel.
Conference Paper
When users post on social network sites, they can engage in audience-reaching strategies, in an effort to reach desired audience members, as well as audience-limiting strategies, in an effort to avoid unwanted audience members. While much research has focused on users’ audience-limiting strategies, little research has explicitly focused on users’ audience-reaching strategies. Additionally, little work has explored either strategy at the post level. Using mixed methods involving a diary study and follow-up interviews focused on a diverse group of users’ posts, this article reveals several audience-reaching strategies users engaged from altering their content to tagging. However, users in this study rarely used strategies to exclude people proactively and technologically outside of their targeted audiences, and instead broadcasted widely. Participants described several rationales for sharing broadly from skill-related issues to a reliance on the audience or site to filter the content.
This article undertakes the analysis of crowdfunding as an activity combining aspects of the exchange of gifts and of commodity exchange. Based on empirical research – 30 interviews conducted with artists using the MegaTotal platform – we demonstrate that completing projects on that platform requires building relationships with a group of the most active users of the platform. Moreover, on the basis of the answers provided by contributors, we show that motives such as participation in the production of culture and deciding what kind of product will make its appearance on the market is what is important to them. Both parties are coupled by the mechanisms of gift exchange and the flow of money.
Article
As jobs in legacy media organizations become increasingly scarce, crowdfunding has gained some momentum as a way for journalists to raise money to start their own media ventures or bolster freelance budgets. While crowdfunding is often positioned as empowering for both the journalists and donors, what is often overlooked is the amount and type of labour involved in crowdfunding. This article examines labour in crowdfunding from three vantage points: the labour involved in the campaign itself, the labour of the donors and the type of labour crowdfunding enables. This paper argues that the amount of work is akin to having a second full-time job. Moreover, having to embrace entrepreneurial techniques and market their work is something many journalists are uncomfortable with. Further, this paper examines how donors are implicated in the labour of journalism, and how journalists are hoping to “commodify” the audience. Finally, this paper addresses how crowdfunding does afford journalists agency, enabling them to work outside of legacy news structures, which many journalists find liberating.
Article
Over the past three decades, economic sociology has been revealing how culture shapes economic life even while economic facts affect social relationships. This work has transformed the field into a flourishing and increasingly influential discipline. No one has played a greater role in this development than Viviana Zelizer, one of the world's leading sociologists. Economic Lives synthesizes and extends her most important work to date, demonstrating the full breadth and range of her field-defining contributions in a single volume for the first time. Economic Lives shows how shared cultural understandings and interpersonal relations shape everyday economic activities. Far from being simple responses to narrow individual incentives and preferences, economic actions emerge, persist, and are transformed by our relations to others. Distilling three decades of research, the book offers a distinctive vision of economic activity that brings out the hidden meanings and social actions behind the supposedly impersonal worlds of production, consumption, and asset transfer. Economic Lives ranges broadly from life insurance marketing, corporate ethics, household budgets, and migrant remittances to caring labor, workplace romance, baby markets, and payments for sex. These examples demonstrate an alternative approach to explaining how we manage economic activity--as well as a different way of understanding why conventional economic theory has proved incapable of predicting or responding to recent economic crises. Providing an important perspective on the recent past and possible futures of a growing field, Economic Lives promises to be widely read and discussed.
Book
This book is a critical and ethnographic study of camgirls: women who broadcast themselves over the web for the general public while trying to cultivate a measure of celebrity in the process. The books over-arching question is, What does it mean for feminists to speak about the personal as political in a networked society that encourages women to represent through confession, celebrity, and sexual display, but punishes too much visibility with conservative censure and backlash? The narrative follows that of the camgirl phenomenon, beginning with the earliest experiments in personal homecamming and ending with the newest forms of identity and community being articulated through social networking sites like Live Journal, YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook. It is grounded in interviews, performance analysis of events transpiring between camgirls and their viewers, and the authors own experiences as an ersatz camgirl while conducting the research. Published (author's copy) Peer Reviewed
Article
Fandom and crowdfunding have both been discursively constructed as spaces in which marginalized voices can make a transformative intervention into popular culture and speak back to the media industries that produce it. Keeping this parallel in mind, this article will examine two successful moments of Kickstarter “fan-ancing,” the comic anthology Womanthology: Heroic and the Veronica Mars movie, to consider their impact on the producer/consumer relationship. Although fan-financed endeavors have the potential to be industrially and culturally transformative works, striving to effect the same change on media industries and fan cultures that a fan work might have on a media property, we need to interrogate the limits of this “transformative” intervention. Examining how these respective campaigns frame fans’ financial, emotional and creative investments, this article argues that though fan-anced projects have the potential to recalibrate the moral economy between producers and fans within media culture, their transformative capacity is ultimately connected to their embrace or rejection of industrial conceptions of “fan participation.”
Article
Popular discourse frames crowdfunding as a way for those traditionally locked out of financing opportunities to leverage the connectivity of the Internet to widen their reach beyond their immediately accessible networks and secure funds for a wide variety of projects. Using a survey of crowdfunding project founders in the culture industries, we explored the relationship between certain social and psychological characteristics and attitudes toward crowdfunding. We examined how extraversion, surface acting, emotional labor, the social composition of project backers, and project success all relate to enjoyment and future intentions of using crowdfunding in the culture industries. Crowdfunding appears to advantage culture producers with particular personality structures while disadvantaging others. In sum, crowdfunding seems beneficial but might be useful only for particular types of artists and therefore should not supplant other traditional financing modes.
Article
Students of the intersection between monetary transfers and intimate social relations face a choice among three ways of analyzing that relationship: as hostile worlds whose contact contaminates one or the other; as nothing but market transactions, cultural constructions, or coercion; or as differentiated ties, each marked by a distinctive set of monetary transfers. A review of payment practices, legal disputes, and recent legal theory illustrates the weakness of the first two views and the desirability of further pursuing the third alternative.
Conference Paper
Social Network Site (SNS) use has become ubiquitous, with hundreds of millions of users sharing and interacting online. Yet, constant, unbounded sharing and interacting with others can cause social crowding and emotional harm (Altman 1975). We explore interpersonal boundary regulation on Social Network Sites to understand these tradeoffs and examine how to improve the social experiences of users. In this paper, we present a taxonomy of five categories of interpersonal boundary mechanisms relevant to SNSs and the specific interface controls that sites provide for managing these boundaries. We qualitatively research how SNS users employ these mechanisms and the boundary issues that arise while interacting online with others. These results present a first step towards a model of SNS interpersonal boundary regulation.
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